Choni Hame’agel, a Talmudic figure, once met an old man planting a carob tree.
“How long will it take to grow?” he asked.
“Seventy years,” the man answered.
“Do you know that you will live another 70 years?” Choni inquired.
“Just as my ancestors planted for me,” replied the man, “so too I plant for my children.”
Next week my daughter graduates from high school. Not just any high school, but Yavne High School, the same high school I graduated from 29 years ago. True, the building is new. We were at the older South Taylor building in Cleveland Heights, whereas my daughter and her friends are at the newer Green Road building in Beachwood. True, we had royal blue plaid uniforms (same at St. Anne’s, except ours had to cover our knees) and today’s Yavne grads have smart looking gray pleated skirts. True, they have “phone carts” to stash their phones. We had a good old payphone (call collect, don’t accept). But there’s so much in common.
We have had many of the same teachers. My class picture of Yavne ‘92 hangs in her hall. The mood, the feel, the spirit of Yavne is the same for her and for me.
The passage of time plays tricks on our minds. Did that event happen last year? Or five years ago? How long has it been since my neighbor got married? Two years? Or seven? When I tell my kids that I remember the day my parents bought our first microwave, they are shocked. Even its digital clock was novel. My brother used to sit in front of the metal box and wait for it to read fun patterns, like 12:34 or 11:11. I think that it’s been 20 years since, but actually when I do the math, it’s more like 40.
We were going through an old album that my sister-in-law made for my husband and me when we were engaged. In addition to pictures of the two of us growing up, she included mementos, like my high school graduation program and my acceptance letter to seminary in Israel. We lifted the plastic to read the letter and my daughter gasped: tuition for the year in 1992 was $5,700. Even adjusting for inflation, that’s less than half what it costs today.
But then I think: my parents planted for me. And I will plant for my children. Is Jewish school expensive? Yeah, that’s an understatement. Is kosher food expensive? Yup. Is a year in Israel out of most of our budgets? Yes and yes. All these high-ticket items are investments into our Jewish identity, into our survival as a people.
And as my daughter graduates, after 15 years of Jewish education, and kosher food, and weekly Shabbats, and prepares for her year in Israel, I am overwhelmed with the strains of “Sunrise, Sunset”:
Is this the little girl I carried
Is this the little boy at play
I don’t remember growing older
When did they?
So I will plant, and I will invest, and I will keep making financial sacrifices to give my kids what my parents gave me. Because those dividends will grow and grow–beyond what I can see and what I can understand.
And one day, God willing, they will plant for theirs.